Chinese authorities have suspended the license of the augmented reality game Pokémon GO, pending further review. Today’s reports point out the app will not run in China until the state censor committee evaluates whether it poses a safety risk for its users.
The Asian country has never seen the worldwide famous monster-catching game, which currently holds approximately 20 million active players.
Pokémon GO’s entry to China will fall into the hands of the Chinese State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.
Chinese players will have to settle for less-known knock-offs, such as a game called ‘City Elves Go,’ while authorities decide if the app poses a “threat to geographical information security and the threat to transport and the personal safety of consumers.”
China has its reasons to ban Pokémon Go
Most reports agree that China’s concern towards security is unfounded, even though Pokémon GO has indeed caused some accidents in the past.
Their second claim, which relates to “geographical information” is more understandable and falls within their normal censorship requirements. The Chinese government is very keen in avoiding any external knowledge of their current geography.
In fact, Google Maps, an app that is essential for Pokémon GO’s functioning, received a ban in 2014 that the government has not lifted.
Representatives from Niantic Labs, the company behind Pokémon GO, have not responded to an initial request for comment. The Chinese government has not released any further statements on the matter since their first announcement.
A brief history of Chinese internet censorship
Censorship of online services at the People’s Republic of China goes back as far as 2002 with their Golden Shield Project to regulate the flow of international data and the subsequent ‘Great Firewall of China,’ a name given to their censorship system by Western media.
China’s total number of blocked websites is unknown, but most of the Google Suite, for example, is currently inaccessible. Other relevant platforms like TIME magazine, Dropbox, Vimeo, and Instagram also suffer the same fate.
The Chinese are practically forced to peruse government-sanctioned alternatives such as the Baidu search engine, which also includes services like Maps and Translate (also banned).
Most social media and entertainment websites already have a made-in-China equivalent today, some of them very similar in appearance and functionality.
For example, Weibo is Twitter’s alternative in China, while Facebook has two, RenRen and KaiXin, the latter having more than 176 million users.